Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Review


After quite a while it’s time to look at the next Kingdom Hearts adventure. I enjoyed the 358 game quite a bit back in the day. The gameplay was definitely a bit simplified but it was all very smooth. The story was also pretty intense and it was interesting to see the organization’s side of things. Roxas as a tragic story right from the start since you know things aren’t going to end well for him. It’s easily the most underrated game in the series. The manga is a pretty solid adaption of this. I’d say that it goes for a bit of a lighter tone but all of the events still happen and we even get some extra development on Xion’s side.

The manga starts with Roxas joining the organization. He is a “Nobody” a shell of a person who died long ago. Nobodies don’t have souls and thus can’t feel human emotions although they can emulate them based on their life experiences. They don’t have memories of who they used to be although they will occasionally get flashes. The mission of the organization is to gather a lot of hearts to open up Kingdom Hearts. Once they do that the goal gets a little more vague but opening up the gate will take a while as it is. Roxas doesn’t feel one way or another about the goal, he just goes ahead and does it. Things change when he starts to become friends with Axel and Xion. He begins to see the organization’s true nature and wonders if he is really in the right place at all.

Of course it is a little difficult to betray an organization when they are all that you knew. Since Roxas has a difficult time with emotions he also isn’t sure how he should feel. One thing’s for sure though, Roxas does develop a real heart by the end of all this. His adventures and emotions are too real for that not to happen. Ultimately he does choose Xion over the organization which was the right call. He’s definitely a solid character for sure. It’s neck and neck between him and Sora for who the better lead is but of course Sora will appear a whole lot more during the franchise. Roxas’ role was brief in comparison, but memorable all the same.

I get the feeling that the author really liked Riku because he looks quite solid here. No complaints from me because I do think Riku is top tier. At this point in the series he has really become accustomed to using the powers of darkness so he even wears a blindfold to increase his abilities. In this series he was actually able to take on the vast majority of the organization members at the same time which is pretty impressive. He’s definitely a fighter who doesn’t do down easily. Roxas gave him a good fight but even this guy couldn’t win in the end. It’s nice to see the original characters looking so solid.

Part of why the struggle is pretty personal here is because both Riku and Roxas are fighting for good reasons. Roxas wanted to save Xion from her deadly fate. Xion’s death would result in Sora’s resurrection but not only does Roxas have no reason to allow this to happen, Xion’s his friend. He can’t just let her throw her life away. The scales are reversed with Riku since Sora is his best friend so he mainly just wants him back no matter the cost. At least they do give Xion the choice although it’s a very pressured one so it’s hard to say how much she got to influence this. Also, Sora’s soul is large enough where Roxas had to go eventually as well.

When you think about it the plot here is actually rather dark. Perhaps that’s why the manga tries to squeeze in a lot of lighter moments to help balance it out. Otherwise this could get rather grim pretty fast. Definitely makes for an engaging read the whole time though. The manga throws you a lot of hints about Xion and her fate from early on. The organization isn’t exactly subtle about it to the point where you think they probably could have hid their intentions a bit more from Roxas so he wouldn’t stand in their way. I’d have liked to see Roxas take down the whole organization which he maybe would have done if he escaped from Riku. I could definitely see him wanting revenge here.

As for Axel, I’m not a big fan of his. At the end of the day he stood down when it counted and his secrets played a large part in dooming Roxas. If he had been more open about what was going on then perhaps they would have been able to think of a plan to escape with. Axel’s decision to keep to himself was a poor one and it’s hard for his character to rebound from it. Xion also made a lot of bad calls. She also didn’t trust in her friends enough. If she talked to Roxas more then she could have had a better chance. I have more sympathy points for her though because she’s living with a ton of veiled threats against her. She also doesn’t want to get him into further trouble. Still not a great reason to keep secrets but it’s better than Axel’s. I always thought Xion was pretty fun and it’s too bad she couldn’t appear more.

The art is pretty solid. It’s not quite Shounen looking in the sense that you shouldn’t expect any big fight scenes here. Most of the time the fights are over in a bit or two even if they are serious battles. The series juggles comedy and action so the art also fluctuates based on that. At this point the artist is pretty experienced so the characters are all looking sharp and the style is refined. I’d like to see longer fight scenes at some point but that’s more of a writing decision as opposed to having to do with the art. From the cuts we get I think the fight scenes would work out pretty well.

The manga isn’t very long so you should blast through it pretty quickly. If anything I wouldn’t have minded a longer bit based on the final act. Once Roxas finally leaves the organization for good it’s one of the more intense moments in the series. His fight with Saix is an example of a fight that could have been extended. Roxas may be relatively new to the Keyblade game but since the manga takes place over the course of a year it’s possible he even has more experience than Sora now. I’m not sure how much time passed during the first two games. Either way my money would be on Roxas to take Saix out and that would be a really grand battle. The final chapters are intense either way so you better enjoy them.

I imagine it would be pretty interesting to start with 358. There are a lot of references to older events and such so while it would increase the mystery angle it also means you will have less reason to root for Sora and friends. It would probably up the tragic angle of the series. It’s always rare to get a video game about the villains so it can be interesting to see their side of things. Especially in a case like this where the organization is evil but the younger members don’t really know better. After all, as Nobodys they don’t have a heart or any emotions so it’s a slot tougher for them to choose between good and evil. At least Roxas and Xion proved that you can get past this and generate a real heart eventually.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts 358 is definitely a solid title and I’d recommend checking it out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it beats the adaption for 2 or anything like that but like the game it makes for a pretty intense story. By the end of it you will feel like things are pretty unfair for the main characters. There really weren’t many options available to them and even the heroes wouldn’t try to save them. Makes it a little harder to get out of an evil organization when that’s the case. Roxas and Xion were really left to their own devices. I think if they could have convinced Axel to run away with them the 3 could have been ok for a while but at the same time they would spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders so in a way it’s not like they would have been living on Cloud 9 or anything like that.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Tangled Review


It’s time to look at a pretty big Disney film from back in the day. Tangled may not have soared to quite the same heights as Frozen but it still made a name for itself in its own right. The tale of Rapunzel is definitely a classic to be sure so it’s nice to see a full fledged adaption. The movie has solid songs, strong writing, and pretty good animation so it’s a solid all around package. I’m definitely in the camp that says Frozen still wins the rivalry between the two but Tangled is certainly a solid film that doesn’t back down to anyone.

The movie starts by showing us the origin of Rapunzel. Her mother was gravely ill so the kingdom used the legendary flower to restore her health. This resulted in Rapunzel being born with incredible abilities. Her hair has the ability to heal injuries and even to dial a person’s age back. It must be used regularly though as it can only stall the age from occurring for so long. A lady named Gothel kidnaps Rapunzel one day and hides her in a tower not too far away from town. I do question to an extent how the kingdom never found her but realistically I suppose it is a long journey and you can’t catch everyone. Rapunzel grows up for many years trapped in the castle with Gothel who has tricked her into thinking that they are mother and daughter. One day a thief named Flynn tries to hide in the tower to avoid getting caught by the military and is promptly knocked out by Rapunzel. Since Gothel will never let Rapunzel go, the heroine has decided to force Flynn to escort her to the annual party in the kingdom. Flynn doesn’t want to do this but it’s not like he has much of a choice. Gothel will have to try and tear these two apart while keeping the facade up but it will be difficult.

You’ll recognize most of the usual story beats. The stories are all pretty popular so the goal is always to just execute the ideas well and I’d say that Tangled succeeds in this mission. As always there are a good amount of songs and the film is always doing something interesting visually so that you have something to watch while the songs are going on. That’s always low key been something Disney does way better than everyone else. Part of the fun in the live action Aladdin film was how many different special effects they could throw at you in a single song. You gotta admit, a lot of films don’t really go the extra mile there. There’s also so much you could do with Rapunzel’s hair that it would be a shame to miss the opportunity.

Rapunzel is a solid heroine. I like how independent she is and the fact that she knows self defense. She did actually take Flynn down for the count when he first appeared rather than panicking or anything of the sort. She also hatched a good plan and made herself a quality deal. Rapunzel’s hair having actual super powers is another feather in her cap so to speak. I suppose her powers merit more comparisons with Elsa and they are fairly close in how cool each character is. Rapunzel gets tricked perhaps 1 too many times but ultimately she makes the right move. I do have to question how she was taken out near the end of the film but I’ll assume it was a cheap attack.

Then we have her partner Flynn who is solid and gives us a lot of the comedic wit in the story. He’s certainly no hero when the film starts as he actively robs the capital. His overconfidence is also what leads him to get caught as he could have just stolen the crown but naturally had to make sure everyone knew he did it. Villains striving to get the credit they think they deserve is definitely nothing new and often sabotages them just as much as the heroes. He gets a solid character arc with Rapunzel though and it’s handled pretty well. One thing that will always elevate a film is good banter and this one certainly had that.

Gothel works as a solid villain. She may be a bit on the obvious side at times with how she doesn’t even pretend to be a nice mother to Rapunzel. I’m not sure what her rationale is, but it’s not unrealistic. I wouldn’t have minded a more nuanced take on her character but I think the film didn’t want to take a chance on her becoming sympathetic. At her core, Gothel is a petty thief who literally kidnapped a baby so that’s the end of that. She also earns extra points for actually stabbing someone. Gothel’s one of the more serious Disney villains we’ve seen. Maximus is the main animal character here and he’s definitely a lot of fun. The horse is incredibly determined to complete his mission of tracking down Flynn and you have to give him some major respect for following the thief for as long as he did. Maximus does a whole lot to complete this task and it’s really impressive. He was definitely a scene stealer if you ask me and the best character in the film. You just can’t top this guy.

With good writing and animation to back this film up it was definitely bound to be as good as it was. There’s really no weakpoints to the story and I would consider it to be one of Disney’s better ones. One of these days I ought to write an editorial ranking them all but there have been so many Disney princess stories that I’ll need to make sure I have them all straight. I’m still waiting for a big crossover film someday. They’d probably have to stick to adding maybe 6-10 in order to keep the story focused but I’d definitely be game for that.

Overall, Tangled is definitely a quality film and one worth watching. As always Disney has constructed a solid cast around Rapunzel and the film is enhanced by the solid song selection and good graphics. This is a nice story from start to finish with a good focus on the plot and solid pacing. Rapunzel herself may come across as a little slow on the uptake at times but since she has grown up in a super limited environment by a character who is known to be cunning then it does make a certain amount of sense. You can only do so much when put into a position like that. I’d definitely be up for a full sequel someday. There’s definitely more that you could do with this franchise.

Overall 7/10

Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

The Goddess of Spring Review


It’s time to look at a Disney short based on a very dark Greek myth. I remember having to read that myth over and over again as part of a deconstruction and it’s definitely super twisted the way most of those myths are. I never liked the Greek Myths because they all go way over the top on being gritty and unnecessarily mean spirited. Fortunately you can always count on Disney to shake things up and make the experience a lot more wholesome. That is exactly the case with The Goddess of Spring. It’s a fun little adventure you can just enjoy without any worry. The main character is a bit iffy though.

The special starts with the goddess singing as her creatures make her a crown. She’s ready to have a good day but this is interrupted when Hades shows up and kidnaps her. She doesn’t really put up much of a fight and her creatures get bullied by the demons. After being in the Underworld for a while Hades is upset that the goddess isn’t enjoying the scenery. He decides to grant her one wish. She wants to go home so he compromises and says that she can be home for 6 months and at his place for the other 6 months. She agrees to these terms and heads back home for more singing and cheer.

It’s definitely a little disappointing to see her creatures back away so quickly when Hades shows up. What happened to standard loyalty and defending your friends when the going gets tough? Now the goddess knows that she can’t count on these people for beans when it really counts. She didn’t do much better herself though. She should have tried to fight since she has godly abilities. Then once she is in the Underworld she doesn’t even try to say anything until Hades asks her what’s up. She didn’t really have a whole lot of agency in this special and was way too passive the whole time.

Meanwhile Hades is carrying this film as he belts out song after song and hatches plans. It’s quite fortunate for the goddess that Hades was a very reasonable character in this special. He’s not portrayed as a good guy since he still did kidnap her, but at least he is portrayed as someone who actually cares what she thinks. Relenting to her going home for half a year was certainly a surprising compromise.

This special is part musical so there are a lot of songs. I can’t say that any of them were quite my style. It’s going for a certain kind of style to which I’m not really a fan. The songs are more loud than engaging without any nice beats to accompany them. The animation holds up pretty well though considering how old this is. The animations are very fluid with nice backgrounds and it all looks very consistent.

Overall, The Goddess of Spring is a nice enough story. I don’t think you’ll end up re watching this one for a while but there’s no reason not to check it out. It’s only about 5 minutes and if you are ever curious about the old legends then getting introduced to them by Disney is the best way to do it. You get to the heart of the story without all of the extra details.

Overall 5/10

7 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Brave Review


Video games based on movies always have a certain reputation that comes along with them. People just expect these games to not be very good and this is warranted by the multitude of games that came out in the early 2000s…..or did they? See, a lot of games based on movies did come out in that era, but I’d argue that a lot of them were really good. The Matrix, Spider-Man 1-3, X-Men 3, etc. These games were actually a lot of fun and then you’ve got titles like The Incredibles or Superman Shadow of Apokolips (Based on a show at least) which were also solid. Now there have been some terrible ones like Finding Nemo, but I’d argue it balances out well. Brave is a solid game in its own right and I’d recommend checking it out.

The plot seems to cover what the movie did in abridged form although I have not watched the movie yet so I can’t say that with 100% confidence. Basically the main character’s Mom is turned into a bear so now she must find a way to turn her back. Meanwhile there is an evil bear who is spreading evil throughout the world and corrupting everybody. If he isn’t stopped soon then there will be no going back. The lead has to learn that bravery is something that comes from within and the way to save her Mother may have something to do with this. The only thing left to do now is fight!

The gameplay is fairly standard. You start out at the Ring of Stones which is effectively the hub world although I hesitate to say that because there is nothing to do here. It’s a blank field you can run around in and it leads you to the 9 levels. Each time you clear one level then the gateway to the next one opens up which allows you to challenge it. There’s not really much more than that to do here so maybe lets just call it the hub. Once inside of the level the goal is to get to the end. This is done by running and jumping through the obstacles. You’ll have to beat a lot of the levels as it is part beat em up. When you beat all of the enemies the force field will leave and you can proceed forward. The levels are fairly quick and you can knock out the full game in a few hours. I don’t know exactly how long it took me, but it was between 4-6 hours I’d say.

In combat you have two weapons. The first is the sword which the game seems to think is your main weapon but don’t let that fool you. It’s nice and you can slice enemies up pretty quickly but there’s no reason to use it. The reason for that is you have a bow which fires unlimited arrows machine gun style. While the damage is slightly lower it compensates well with how many arrows you’re shooting. You can also run at full speed while shooting which is rare for any game. As a result there is no downside to constantly shooting as you are running. Not a bad idea right? I went with the arrows for the whole game and it was worth it. I didn’t die at all throughout my whole playthrough (until the final boss) which yeah that isn’t too impressive considering what game it is, but it still felt pretty good.

As you play through the game you will find upgrades for your sword and arrows as well as other costumes and tapestries which increase your base stats. You can also buy other upgrades at each save point which are pretty handy. They aren’t hidden all that far away from the main path so I was actually able to get almost all of them despite focusing on just clearing the game the whole time. It’s really not much of a time sink to quickly turn around and grab them so I’d recommend doing so. Additionally if you aim to get the Platinum trophy you’ll need to do this at some point anyway so what better time than the present right?

The graphics are fairly decent. It does look more like a PS2 game than PS3, but it’s not like the character models are blocky or anything. You’re always still sure of what’s happening next and there are a good amount of cinematics here to give you that movie feel. There isn’t really a soundtrack unfortunately so that does keep this from feeling like a higher budget title. I’d say that the main giveaways to this not being a big AAA game is how there are some re-used cutscenes and how simple the controls are. I don’t think simple controls is inherently a bad thing though. With good level design and a solid gameplay option you can really make this work out. Just look at the old Sonic or Mega Man games. There weren’t a bunch of controls but they were still a lot of fun.

If anything holds this game back it’s the length, but you can buy this game for cheap nowadays so I don’t think you’ll feel too badly about it. There is also the replay value thanks to the trophies which keeps this from being too short as well. Brave is just a fun game and it feels like a nice relic of the past. You don’t really see quick cash-in games like this anymore and it’s a shame. It’s not the kind of game you’d buy for 60, but it’s one that is always fun to stumble upon in Gamestop. It’s easily worth the price nowadays.

Overall, Brave is a very good game. I’m not saying it’s great and it’s not going for game of the year awards, but there’s really nothing bad to say about it. The ability to shoot endless arrows is admittedly very cheesy, but it does help this feel more like an arcade game. You can just dive into the game and take down as many enemies as you can. You can even turn it into a minigame with yourself to see how long you can go without getting hit. Some of the last levels will give you a nice challenge there and as I mentioned I did die a few times during the final boss. That one throws enemy after enemy at you so taking them all down isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It’s good reaction time practice since if you jump at the right time you should be able to dodge any attack.

Overall 7/10

7 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review


It’s time to take a look at the final Star Wars film in the main saga. It’s been a long road so we’ve been waiting quite a while for this one. This trilogy has definitely had a checkered history with the first film being pretty much a 1-1 remake of episode IV and V destroyed any semblance of Luke Skywalker’s character, but did give us some of the first fight scenes we had in a very long time. This one is definitely better than the last two films. It may not take the series to the next level, but it certainly has more positives than negatives and I would easily recommend it to anyone who wants a good action film.

The movie starts off by with the group scattered once again. The Empire is on the offensive as always and Kylo Ren is searching for even greater power. He has found a new spark of life for his army and they threaten the very universe. Rey has been training so that she would be ready for the next big battle and is closer to being a Jedi Master. This has caused her to not be as available to the resistance which does bring some apprehensive feelings from the other characters. Finn and Poe have done their best to locate more intel but they are heavily outgunned and need some kind of backup support. Can the resistance rise up to overthrow the empire or have they finally hit their limit?

Right away one positive in the film is that it has a very fast pace. Something is always happening and we get to cover a lot of ground. There aren’t a whole lot of action scenes or at least it feels that way, but the ones we do get are very good. Whenever Rey and Ren face off against each other you are sure to have a good fight. The series still isn’t nearly as good at the battles as in films II and III which is a little odd since those are so old, but the battles still hold up. I always like hearing the lightsaber effects and how they are designed as well. The Force abilities are also pretty versatile and can be used in many ways. The film did a good job of incorporating them into the action scenes.

Luke Skywalker actually didn’t look terrible here which is already a point above the last film. He seemed like his old self and I was glad about that. It’s always fun to have cameos from the older characters through their force ghosts although some of them can be a bit much here. One character in particular was a bit iffy since he really shouldn’t have the ability to become a force ghost compared to the others. We can assume that they let him in and it’s not like the rules are totally set, but it did feel a bit cheesy. It does help make this finale feel a little more special though. We get to see almost every important character and location in the series.

One of the film’s weaknesses is that it’s a long movie that does feel long though. In part this is because the cast can’t hold their own scenes as well as the original characters. Rey does a good job as the lead, but Poe and Finn aren’t quite as exciting in the B plot as Han Solo was back in the day. We get to see a lot of nice backdrops in various scenes, but the scenery does add up which also gets attributed to the feeling that the film’s lasting a while. It’s probably a tradeoff that is unavoidable to feel like a LOTR epic, but I think the film could have shrunk the length down a bit or maybe focused more on Rey and thrown in some more fight scenes.

As always Rey is a great lead. In this film she is really struggling with her past a lot and trying not to go to the dark side. It’s a good internal battle and Rey tends to make the right decisions. I do think her friends had a point that she was taking too long training when they could use her on the front lines, but the training did allow her to stay on par with Kylo Ren so without it I wonder how she would have fared. Rey not come out on top every time, but she always fights hard and it’s nice to have a Jedi who is trained so well for a change. It feels like a long time since we’ve been to this point. The scene of her dragging down a ship was impressive the likes of which we haven’t seen since Starkiller.

This is one of the best parts about the film in general. It’s great to see Rey as a Jedi Master who is pretty confident and knows what she is doing. I’d like to see her go rogue a little more and just wreck the enemy, but she shows us enough so we know what she is capable of. We haven’t seen someone as powerful as her since episode III so it’s been a considerably long time. The fun part is when you think about it she is way stronger than even someone like Darth Vader just going by the films, but his appearances came before the effects got to this point so it’s not totally an equal comparison.

Unfortunately Finn didn’t bring his A game this time. I found him to be pretty annoying in a lot of scenes where he acts like he knows Rey better than Poe. Whether that is true or not he comes across as pretty obnoxious. One scene in particular is when he accuses Poe of not understanding Rey and when Poe asks him to help get this understanding, Finn just doesn’t bother helping out. It’s like telling someone that they don’t know the right answer and you do, but then not giving it to them when asked. In general I thought Finn was giving Poe a hard time throughout the film when it wasn’t really deserved. Poe was actually quite solid here. He got the shaft in the first two films compared to the other two so it was nice to see him take more of an active role here. Poe is probably the closest we would get to Han Solo so it’s nice to have another hot shot pilot like him.

Meanwhile we’ve got Kylo Ren on the villain side. I still can’t take him all that seriously without his helmet because of how beat up he always looks. The guy can still fight though so ideally this should be enough to get you on his side. While I can’t go into detail on his character too much, I thought his portrayal here was pretty good. I consider it to be an improvement over how he looked in the last two films. His first scene in the movie is probably his best one though even if he made the wrong call in the end.

Part of why most of the characters are at their best here is because the writing is pretty solid. We get a good script with some nice humor included. Most of the characters make the rational choices time and time again. The villains are constantly in-fighting while the heroes keep using their bonds to get through tough times. It helps their resistance feel a little more realistic even if they probably should have been completely wiped off the map by now. I already covered the fights, but the effects in general are really great as well.

Princess Leia is one character who I felt had no real purpose in this film. She was one of those characters who was just here for nostalgia along with a bunch of cameos. We got a flashback scene with her and I feel like it should not have been included because it just makes her look terrible. The reason why she gave up something boils down to her being scared of the future and that’s always one of the worst reasons to abandon something. She also made some wrong calls with regard to certain secrets so overall she really didn’t help the troops much at all.

One interesting concept that the film dabbles with is how the force can allow you to be in multiple places at once and transcend space/time. It seems like an interesting take on the astral plane because in a way that’s how the characters are connected. It was cool to see how they would effect different places at the same time. One point where I don’t see how it worked is how both characters got a lightsaber at the end and you’ll know what scene I’m talking about when you watch the film. It’s possible one was on the ground, but if the force duplicated it then that might be stretching things a little bit. Otherwise I think this ability still makes sense and is effectively a further demonstration of the usual force ghost abilities.

It does always make you wonder why the heroes don’t use this more often to mess with the villains. It opens up an interesting can of worms since the heroes could have easily ruined the villain’s plans a lot sooner if they would act in the real world more. One of the novels explained why they do not, but most of those are not canon anymore so I’d like the films to address it at some point. The power levels are pretty good for the most part though so I don’t really have any issues there. The soundtrack is good as well even if a whole lot of it is really just re-used from older films. I’d like to start seeing some new music in any future films going forward.

It’s hard to pick what the best scene in the film is, but mine is possibly when two characters are struggling for control over a ship in the distance. It’s a really nice scene showing how persistent both characters are and was one of the best portrayals of their individual strength as well. It was also the right move for the hero to do there instead of retreating or following. Just grabbing the ship made the most sense so long as it was a feasible option and that’s exactly what happened. One scene where a character made the wrong move is when someone rightfully mentions that they should consider a potential counter and as he is going into detail on why they should think about it he gets silenced. I guess some people just don’t want to win….

This film has a little romance although fortunately not much. Unfortunately it wasn’t handled well at all. This doesn’t feel like a natural progression considering how much animosity was between the two characters. It’s great that they could move past this so quickly of course, but jumping to the next step was a bit soon. Time was of the essence I suppose so it might have been more of a gesture of friendship with one person feeling bad for the other, but no matter how you slice it I couldn’t really give this part a thumbs up.

Rise of Skywalker has a pretty satisfying ending that deals with everything more or less. There is one missed opportunity in my opinion though. One character gets one last line to end the film with and if it was one word different it would have been amazing. It would have probably been pretty controversial as well, but sometimes you gotta take some big risks. This isn’t a negative though as it’s a purely subjective change and either way it works well enough.

So, where does Rise of Skywalker rank overall? Well, I’d put it above pretty much all of the films except III which ages better each time and IV. It’s tough with V, Rogue One, and VI, but I may have to actually put this one above those. Here’s the thing, those films had a more interesting setup and better characters, but I would call this the stronger film. I’d sooner rewatch those in part because it’s been a while, but if we’re comparing initial viewings then I would have to pick this one. So initially I thought this was around middle tier, but this would actually put it near the top.

All in all, this third trilogy is the strongest one. It may have had a slight dip with the middle film, but it didn’t have any bad installments either. I still think the worst thing it did was basically make all of the old films pointless with the reveal in VII that the Empire is back, but after that it recovered well. I think it’ll definitely live on as a nice trilogy for new viewers who don’t necessarily want to go back to the older days. I am interested in seeing new films come out with a fresh cast and all though. One thing I still really want is more Jedi and Sith battles. I’d like some high end battles like in Episode III. This one had some good battles, but there was still nothing even close to the level of those.

Overall, Rise of Skywalker is a solid way to wrap up the Star Wars series. I think I covered about as much as I could without heading into spoiler territory. I won’t call it a great movie because despite the fast pacing it wasn’t always super engaging. I think in part this is because the big emotional moments don’t really land. Seeing some guest stars and throwbacks to the past is always fun and all but I wouldn’t call any of these scenes particularly powerful. The action and effects should still keep you busy though and the film is technically sound. The writing is good and at the very least you can see how there was a lot of effort put in here. I’d recommend checking this film out whether you are a Star Wars fan or not. You should be able to jump in and quickly understand what is happening thanks to the helpful opening text and the fact that the basic plot (large scale) is easy enough to understand. It’s a war and the empire is the evil side.

Overall 7/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Hercules Review


It’s time to watch another big Disney classic. This time we are thrown into the world of myths and heroes with Hercules. This is definitely one of the more action packed titles and it holds up quite well to this day. While the songs aren’t quite as memorable as some of the other films, we do get one of the best Disney villains in Hades. The guy has a lot of charisma and steals all of the scenes he is in.

The film starts off with Hercules being born and Zeus has a big party to celebrate this. He invites all of the other gods of course and it’s a perfect day. This changes when Hades shows up and hatches a plan to prevent this. He turns Hercules into a mere mortal and Zeus is forced to banish him to Earth. The only way for Zeus to re-obtain his godhood is to become a true hero by performing many feats. It’s not as easy as saving people though, he has to do something truly heroic for noble reasons. Can Hercules become a god again before Hades conquers both of the worlds.

Lets quickly just talk about some things here that are a bit iffy, but in character when you look at the myths. One thing is how Zeus can’t let Hercules stay once he is mortal. Zeus is the highest ranked god in this universe right? Why does he have to obey a law when he is the one making them? Most people who create laws rarely end up following them and Zeus is always shown to be a pretty selfish guy. I guess this one’s just too heroic for that, but it’s still a bit iffy. He’s also super oblivious like how he didn’t notice that Hades tried to stab baby Hercules. How he didn’t realize that Hades would be a bit upset after being banished to the Underworld is also interesting. I do like Zeus a lot to be fair. He’s just a lot of fun which is rare for most portrayals of his character. That being said, he’s not very smart of strong. In the climax he looks pretty terrible to be honest.

I also have to question how there is a potion that can take away your godhood so easily. Can’t Hades just trick the other gods into drinking it too and then he would rule the world? If the film mentioned that it only worked because Hercules is half human then I’ll have to retract this issue. Both of these are extremely minor observations that don’t effect my enjoyment of the film or the score, but were worth noting. I was definitely thinking about this as I watched the film.

Hercules is definitely a good lead. He reminds me of early Superman when he would work on the farm using his super abilities. Hercules doesn’t have a secret identity to worry about so he just works hard and does his best at all times. The townspeople are annoyed by him which is unfortunate. While Hercules can be a bit sloppy, he really seems like an earnest chap. He does fall for Megara pretty easily and doesn’t listen to Phil as much as he should, but all in all Hercules can easily hold his own film. He already seems more powerful than most of the gods which is also quite impressive.

Phil was always fun in the Kingdom Heart games and is good here as well. He definitely flirts a lot though so I have to doubt his concentration as a coach, but once he actually gets his hat on straight then he’s ready to work. He probably could have done a better job of explaining to Hercules what was up though. As for Megara, she’s a tough heroine. Megara is the kind of character who always tries to get the last word in and is pretty jaded on romance in general. This does result in what I would say was a pretty quick 180 with Hercules but I suppose he is basically a god so I imagine he was impressive in person. I do think it would have been a good dynamic to have had them stay friends though.

As mentioned earlier Hades is definitely the big character here. He is proactive compared to the rest of the gods and characters. While they sit back and eat he is always planning. His plan was pretty much fool proof and while his lackeys aren’t too helpful (They don’t really add to the film and could have been cut out) Hades is prepared for that as well. He probably should have just hurried a little more near the end so Hercules wouldn’t arrive in time. His abilities aren’t tough enough to actually fight head-on with Hercules and Zeus, but it would have been interesting to have seen him fight a little more. Most of the gods lost effortlessly to the Titans though so those guys got quite a lot of hype.

I did like that in the ending Hercules quickly went to the underworld to save Megara. In any story where the underworld is a place you can visit it feels mandatory that the characters should head on over. Hercules was able to win on his turf so he should at least believe that he can win here as well. That’s the level of determination you need in order to be a good main character. What would have made the ending perfect would have been if Zeus said that Hercules and Megara could both come to their world and they could just go back between Earth and the realm of the gods whenever they pleased. It’s the last the gods could do since they’d be dead otherwise.

The scene with Hades talking to the fates are interesting dialogue-wise but the whole eyeball thing was more gross than creepy. I could have gone without that scene to be honest. As for the songs, we do get some catchy songs from the fates, but none of them quite have the same heart that you would see in Aladdin or Frozen. I already can’t say that I remember the lyrics to any of the songs. They have that classic Disney auto tune (Not auto tune, but a voice modification thing that makes them all sound the same) effect which works well and I’m glad they had these songs as opposed to not having any, but it’s not the strength of the film.

The writing is really where the film shines and the pacing is tight. Then we’ve got the solid animation which is as sharp and colorful as you’ll remember. It holds up to any and all of the other Disney films. We also get some fun fight scenes which is great like Hercules vs the Titan or the first bull creature. I was surprised that Hercules didn’t win his first fight with more ease though. Even if he didn’t know how to fight yet, I figured that his super strength would make any fight an easy win. I guess it’s good that he’s not too OP yet, but then it does make you wonder how strong the gods are. It is reasonable to say that the humans could possibly win a fight with them in a few hundred years once they got gun powder.

Overall, Hercules is a very good movie. It’s definitely the definitive version of the story and I’d be down with Disney making a sequel someday. They’ve been doing a lot of remakes lately but not a bunch of sequels. A crossover of all their 90s classics would also be a blast. That’d be very ambitious, but it would make for an excellent watch. I was long overdue to watch this film and it lived up to the wait. If you haven’t seen this movie yet then I recommend changing that and watching it as soon as possible.

Overall 7/10

Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

The Art of Skiing Review


It’s time for another Disney short. Goofy doesn’t tend to hold his own quite as well as Mickey of Donald, but he’s had some good ones over the years. This one was not my favorite though. It’s another one of the tutorial shorts as the special explains what Skiing is and how to do it well. The problem in my opinion is the narrator. He explains what it happening the whole time, but it feels a little unnecessary. If he just let the visuals speak for themselves then I think this special would have been alot more solid. You really don’t need someone to be explaining what is going on since we can see all of that for ourselves. It really doesn’t add to the bigger picture and it doesn’t help the humor. It’s like when someone says a joke and another character tries to explain it. Explaining the joke just makes it sink even more.

The special is mostly a lot of slapstick as everything goes wrong for Goofy before he finally heads home and calls it a night. You’ll feel bad for Goofy since he really didn’t want to go and skii, but was forced to do so. The guy was just looking forward to enjoying a nice day of sleep and relaxation at home, but ultimately that was all shot down. He was pressured into taking action but at least he got to escape in the end. I think what could have spiced things up here is if Mickey or Donald showed up and were experts at Skiing. Maybe have them show Goofy how to do it or something like that. I think that would have worked out pretty well.

The animation is very smooth as always. All of the scenes flow together and the animators definitely showed a lot of skill here. The scenes all transition into each other very well. Then the special is pretty quick so the pacing isn’t bad. Even if it wasn’t all that interesting for me, it’s only like 3-5 minutes so it’s not as if you’re spending an hour here or anything like that.

Overall, The Art of Skiing can’t quite keep up with the other Disney shorts. It didn’t help that I saw it right next to the cool Donald one about Hockey. My favorite tutorial is probably still the Basketball one although Football was close. I think there’s just less to poke fun at with Skiing so that hurts in a parody tutorial setting. This one actually may have played it straight in comparison with the joke just being that Goofy wasn’t very good at it. If you want to watch a quick short about Goofy then this is a fun one to check out. Otherwise I would say that you’ll be better off watching almost any other Disney short.

Overall 5/10

Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

The Hockey Champ Review


I’ve been reviewing quite a few Hockey games lately so it’s only fitting that I review a hockey short as well right? In this one Donald gets to show why he is a pro and honestly this is why he is the best of the original Disney characters. I like his confidence and the guy does have the skills to back up his tough talk.

His nephews have decided to get into the game of ice hockey so Donald agrees to show them some moves in a practice game. He is the current Hockey champ after all. Donald quickly beats the nephews and makes the game look easy but they aren’t too happy about that. They go for a rematch but this time Donald will be blindfolded. Can he still win?

The special is only a few minutes long of course so in describing the plot I’ve already described most of the special. Still, it’s a very fun one and one of the better Disney shorts if you ask me. It can still be hard to understand Donald at times but that’s when Disney’s striking animation comes into play. The characters are always so expressive that you can still get the meaning behind what they are saying at all times. Donald isn’t playing and while he rarely ever gets to have a happy ending, at least he always puts in a good effort no matter what.

The best scene of the special is definitely when Donald finally scores the goal and then multiplies the score by punching it back into the net over and over again. Now that’s some good style! He basically upgraded the game into something more like boxing which takes a lot of creativity. The nephews are reasonable as well of course. They realize that they are outmatched so they quickly decide to use some tricks to win. Anything clearly goes in this kind of battle so their gameplan was pretty sound. Next time Donald will certainly be ready for them though.

Overall, This was definitely one of the better Disney shorts. Donald really takes it to the next level and it’s a pretty intense one. A good chunk of the special is a fun chase scene with Donald and the nephews with the animators having a lot of fun with the effects and how crazy things can get. I do miss this retro style and bringing it back would be a good idea. If you haven’t seen this one yet then I recommend changing that as soon as you can.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Magical Dancing Review


Time to check out a dancing crossover manga. It’s always fun to look at a crossover in any media and this is one of those series that I had not heard of before now. It’s not an action series so don’t go in expecting Kingdom Hearts, but it’s nice to see the Disney characters weighing in with their thoughts and tips. It’s a fun mini series and one that I would recommend.

The story follows a girl named Rin who wants to be a great dancer. She is in the same class as the legendary duet Kai and Yuna so Rin gets good inspiration during every class. Unfortunately her dancing abilities aren’t quite on their level yet which puts her in a bit of a bind. Yuna also doesn’t seem to like Rin one bit and even tells her to quit the club. Rin nearly does but then Tinker Bell shows up with a magic book. This book summons random Disney mascots to aid Boo in her time of need. Whenever she is in trouble these are friends that Rin can rely on. Will they be enough to get her atop the winning stage?

At only 2 volumes the series has to move quickly but I must say that it makes a world of difference to have 2 volumes over 1. The extra volume allows for more character development in each of the characters and we also get more Disney stars which is always good. It is a fun story and while it could have certainly gone for a few more volumes you don’t feel cheated out of its potential. I’d consider it to be a page turner. It’s not like it’s got an end of the world plot but the writing is just really solid which makes the experience all the more pleasant. The art is also quite solid which is important. The pages are all very clear and none of the characters are drawn too similarly so you won’t be mixing anyone up here. That is also absolutely critical since some series like to draw a bunch of people the same way and that can get tricky.

As for the characters, the main cast is pretty small, but solid. First you have Rin who is given a pretty tough time at school because she isn’t very good at dancing. She has a lot of enthusiasm, but no matter how much she practices Rin has just never been able to get the hang of the sport. Even Kai is fairly down on her and he’s supposed to be the nice guy. Yuna and the other girls are a lot harsher which is what leads Rin to the book. Rin does admittedly use the book as a crutch quite often in order to save the day, but it’s not like you can become a great dancer overnight. This allows her to buy some time as her skills improve organically. My main complaint with Rin is just that she lets things get to her too easily. She doesn’t really fight back against the other characters and gets walked on quite a bit. I like to think that by the end of the series she has gotten a little tougher though.

I would say that she is a little gullible, but in this case I have to blame the whole class. There is one moment when a bunch of bullies show up to talk some smack. The heroes fire back but then still listen to what the bullies have to say. Why would you do that? They all walked into that trap and I was surprised because literally the entire team was fooled. Fortunately Rin was there to save the day, but otherwise that would have been an embarrassing way to go.

Next up you have Kai who is a little odd. As mentioned, he doesn’t seem all that nice at first in the series but by the end he is very supportive of Rin. I guess he was probably trying to keep up his image, but I don’t know if that’s the best defense. He also makes you feel bad for Yuna because he acts totally oblivious to her and seems to be falling for Rin. Yuna being a bully lowers the sympathy levels, but either way Kai is in a tricky spot. He’s not the best main guy in a Shojo series, but he could have been worse. Then you have Yuna who is considerably better than the average bully character. That’s because she’s not super petty and doesn’t constantly try to sabotage Rin. She may not like the main character much, but Yuna does give her a fair shake. More importantly, Yuna doesn’t go back on her word so when Rin clears the challenges Yuna lets her on the team. Not saying that Yuna is heroic by the end or anything like that, but she’s a quality character.

Naturally we have the Disney characters as well. I was actually surprised at how Mickey acted when he showed up though because he basically just “Noped” out of there as soon as he appeared. Helping Rin out of a tight spot wasn’t really his goal and he always used to strike me as one of the heroic leads. From all of the guest stars he was probably the least helpful. Still, things always tend to work out when the guest stars show up, but some took a more active role in making sure this did happen than others. They also did help Rin learn to take it easy and not always get caught up in the heat of the moment. It’s good advice no matter what profession you’re in.

The ending is pretty open so it’s the kind of title that could easily get a sequel if the author feels like it. Otherwise you can easily imagine how it’ll all play out. If we did get a sequel then I imagine that the rivalry between Yuna and Rin would heat up. Honestly I would prefer that they just stay friends, but that does seem pretty unlikely. That just rarely happens in these kinds of stories even though they have a lot of similarities. So long as Kai exists there will definitely be some tension.


Overall, Magical Dancing is a title that I definitely recommend. There aren’t a ton of dancing titles out there so it’s always nice to have more options. The Disney characters showing up is a nice bonus, but it’s just that, a bonus. The series would have been able to stand up on its own even without them. After all, they are surprisingly the weakest part of the story. They’re fun, but whenever the Disney characters show up the plot has to temporarily come to a halt. Without them the team would have been doomed in the tournament so they were critical in getting Rin to her goal though.

Overall 7/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

The Nightmare before Christmas Review


It’s time to look at a manga adaption of the popular film that came out a long time ago. It’s always interesting to see a manga adaption of a film. They tend to play it pretty straight, but it’s a chance to see how the artist draws the characters and if any liberties are taken. Due to time constraints you can expect some scenes to be cut here and there. It’s a fun enough adaption and makes for a good read although it’s admittedly not terribly interesting. It’s still a good read.

The plot follows Jack who is the king of horror. Every Halloween he gives everyone a good scare but now he is ready for something more. In this world every season has their own country so he sneaks into Christmasland and decides to take a page from their book. Their land will have a Christmas this time and he gets the whole town in on it. Sally doesn’t think that this is a good idea due to a vision that she had, but she can’t really prove it so her case doesn’t end up being very strong. Can she find a way to stop Jack?

The manga isn’t really able to show why this is a bad idea quite as much as in the film. We do have a few pages showing that Jack is a bit sad and the Christmas spirit isn’t really working, but there’s no time to really go into it. Mostly we see the down side of this is just because Jack is ruining Christmas for all the kids in the outside world by giving them terrible presents. Santa is fortunately around to fix this by the end. Jack’s plan doesn’t seem bad otherwise as doing the same thing year after year must be boring. The town was already planning the next Halloween the day after it ended which shows how little the town does.

This town also seems pretty shady. Sally’s creator for example seems to be incredibly possessive to the point where she has to poison him several times to escape. How he falls for the same poisoned soup trick over and over is another story. It’s a rather odd subplot that fits the creepy tone of the manga, but ultimately feels pretty unnecessary. I suppose with only Jack’s plot the story would have been over a little too quickly though.

You’ve also got the villain Oogie Boogie who shows up to strike fear into the characters. Jack seems to know that he’s a bad guy as he warns the kids to stay away, but I guess maybe there’s not much that the town can do about him? They seem awfully resigned to their fate so I guess that’s just how it is sometimes. The whole town is suspect so I suppose that’s just the least of their problems. The final fight is fairly short but at least we do get a bit of an action scene.

The art is pretty solid. It does a good job of recreating the movie’s vibe and everything’s pretty clear. It’s got a good amount of detail which is always important. You’ll be blasting through the manga. The pacing is definitely very fast so there is never a feeling of the story slowing down. As I mentioned earlier, the only issue is that you just won’t get very invested in the characters. You won’t really care what happens to them in the end and there isn’t a real sense of danger until the very end of the volume. This isn’t really that kind of series of course, but either you have a really engaging plot or you have big action scenes. If you have neither then you’re sort of stuck.

The manga makes no mistakes though. For obvious reasons there is no fanservice here or any excessive violence. It’s a manga you could recommend to anyone at least based on content. The title plays it very safe but I still think it could have tried to be more interesting. I think there can be an interesting debate on how far you should diverge on something if the base material isn’t interesting enough. After all, the author/artist probably had little creative input on changing things. Still, I feel you gotta still review the thing in front of you the same way you would if it wasn’t an adaption.

Overall, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a decent story. It’s about as good as a manga as it is in film. The film may have the slight edge but it really is the same story so it’s not like they are very different. If you liked the movie then you’ll like the manga. If you haven’t seen the film but are in the mood for a fun little story about Halloween characters trying to understand Christmas then you’ll enjoy this one as well. It’s only one volume so it’s not like it’s a big time investment either. What do you have to lose right?

Overall 6/10